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Gates, Barrett plug workstations

Bill Gates and Craig Barrett highlight a dual company event focused on promoting workstations based around the "Wintel" architecture.

Bill Gates and Craig Barrett are highlighting a dual company event today focused on promoting workstations based around the "Wintel" architecture.

Gates, the chief executive of Microsoft, and Barrett, his counterpart at Intel, are the featured speakers at the Workstation Leadership Forum in Burlingame, California. The two executives will be joined by corporate customers as well as other executives.

Intel is also expected to give an update on Merced, its long-awaited 64-bit processors. Samples should come out in the next few months, an Intel spokeswoman said.

The move into workstations has clearly benefited both companies and their computing allies. Intel/Windows NT workstations are growing at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 24.8 percent, according to figures provided by the companies from IDC while revenues are growing at around 20 percent.

By contrast, sales of traditional RISC/Unix workstations are shrinking by around 5 percent in terms of units and 9.5 percent when it comes to revenue. Moreover, Wintel-based machines are increasing in performance and power, and in the process, competing more directly against RISC machines in all segments of the market. In the past, Wintel workstations were more prevalent in less power-intensive markets, such as finance, and not as widely accepted in markets with extravagant graphics needs, such as film and video.

The movement, however, isn't as lockstep as it looks. Although its market share remains small, the Linux operating system is growing in popularity among workstation users as an alternative to both Windows NT and Unix. Even stalwart Microsoft allies like Dell Computer are loading it onto their workstations.

Last year at the same event, the two companies emphasized the number of high-end application vendors, such as Synopsys, that were migrating from RISC to Wintel machines. This year, the emphasis will be on customers, such as Sony and Mondavi Winery, who have made the jump.

The event takes place at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt Regency in Burlingame. Gates and Barrett will speak at 8:15 a.m. PT.